Airtel 4G overtakes Reliance Jio in online search volumes

An analysis of search data from Google has reveals that Bharti Airtel’s 4G service has overtaken Reliance Jio in terms of creating online buzz, as reflected by the number of searches on Google.

Bharti’s LTE service, called Airtel 4G, had been totally eclipsed by the launch of Jio in 2016 and was nowhere in the picture throughout most of the late 2016 to early 2017.

On the other hand, interest in Jio peaked in the week between Aug 28 and Sept 3, 2016 when the service was officially launched by Mukesh Ambani (see graph ‘2-year traffic’).

At the time, for every 100 queries on Jio, there were only 7 on ‘Airtel 4G’ from India.

In fact, for the whole of 2016, there were three times as many queries on Jio as there were on Airtel. Compared to Idea and Vodafone, the difference was of 12 times.

Moreover, the trend showed no regional variation, with the Ambani firm leading in all states across India except Arunachal Pradesh (see 2016 map above).

But in 2017, things started to even out as other players started offering competitive tariffs and the gap between the two companies narrowed in a steady fashion.

For the whole of 2017, for every 41 queries on Jio, there were 31 on Bharti’s 4G service and 10 each on Idea and Vodafone (see picture).

However, a finer analysis shows that the change gathered momentum towards the end of the year when incumbents started cutting prices to compete with the newcomer.

By the last three months of 2017, Bharti Airtel seized a clear lead over Jio in generating online user interest (see India maps on the top).

In fact, for the last three months of 2017, Airtel led the battle for search by 10 points, with 66 points against only 56 for the new entrant. Idea 4G and Vodafone were far behind at 24 and 23. These points are based on the number of queries handled by Google.

This was also seen in the geographical distribution of search dominance.

During the last quarter of 2017, Reliance was able to maintain its search leadership only in five states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana and Tripura. In all other places, it was Airtel 4G all the way (see picture).

However, the increasing buzz created by the market leader’s offerings seemed to have unnerved the Ambani-led company, which went in for deep price cuts in early January.

This seemed to have some impact, as Jio was able to narrow Airtel’s gap in January 2018.

Despite this, for the current month of January, Airtel continues to hold a narrow lead in all India search at 61 to Jio’s 60. Meanwhile, Idea and Vodafone have fallen further behind at 22 and 21 respectively.